Skip to main content

Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

See other formats


MEN OF MATHEMATICS
schoolwork was uniformly excellent, but it gave him no com-
fort, and his only solace was the joy of buying such inconsider-
able presents as his pocket money would permit, to send home
to his parents and brother and sisters on their birthdays. One
present for his parents he invented and made himself, an
original perpetual calendar, much to the astonishment of his
incredulous schoolfellows. On the death of his grandmother Wo
years later, Riemann was transferred to the Gymnasium at
Liineburg, where he studied tfll he was prepared, at the age of
nineteen, to enter the University of Gottingen. At Liineburg
Riemann was within walking distance of home. He took full
advantage of his opportunities to escape to the warmth of his
own fireside. These years of his secondary education, while Ms
health was still fair, were the happiest of his life. The tramps
back and forth between the Gymnasium and Quickborn taxed
his strength, but in spite of his mother's anxiety that he might
wear himself out, Kiemann continued to over-exert himself in
order that he might be with his family as often as possible.
While still at the Gymnasium Riemann suffered from the
itch for finality and perfection which was later to slow up his
scientific publication. This defect - if such it was - caused him
great difficulty in his written language exercises and at first
made it doubtful whether he would 'pass'. But this same trait
was responsible later for the finished form of two of his master-
pieces, one of which even Gauss declared to be perfect. Things
improved when Seyfter, the teacher of Hebrew, took young
Riemann into his own house as a boarder and ironed him out.
The two studied Hebrew together, Riemann frequently giv-
ing more than he took, as the future mathematician at that
time was all set to gratify his father's wishes and become a
great preacher - as if Riemann, with his tongue-tied bashful-
ness, could ever have thumped hell and damnation or redemp-
tion and paradise out of any pulpit. Riemann himself was
enamoured of the pious prospect, and although he never got as
fax as a probationary sermon, he did employ his mathematical
talents in an attempted demonstration, in the manner of
Spinoza, of the truth of Genesis. Undaunted by his failure,
young Riemann persevered in his faith and remained a sincere
536